The pandemic continues to rage across Europe and beyond. As governments start to contemplate their vaccination strategies, there will be additional pressures on the health workforce which still has to cope with need to catch up with many delayed treatments. Years of austerity and underfunding have exacted a horrible toll. EPSU’s recent Executive Committee meeting considered how to address the crisis with public investment, restructuring of debt and taxation of the wealthy as key elements. We want to use the opportunities the pandemic offers to reset the economy and achieve a more socially just and environmentally sustainable society with quality public services. This is the main line of the document adopted by the Executive that will guide EPSU’s work and actions in the months to come.
As we fight against austerity we will confront opposition and I already noted in the last newsletter the first signs of Commissioner Dombrovskis pushing fiscal consolidation. As we went through the opinions of the Commission on Member States’ draft budgets for 2021, we found the Commission implicitly criticising pay increases for health workers in Belgium and France and for civil servants in Spain. The Commissioner is questioning pay increases for workers but not pushing to reduce wealth inequalities. Nor is he expressing support for the campaign to address the insane wealth of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos based on aggressive tax planning, tax avoidance and the exploitation of its workforce. We will need to muster our joint forces to realise our joint vision and the Executive Committee agreed that one way to do this would be to organise an action day on the 23 June next year. We look forward to many actions in support of our demands. You can read more about the full agenda of the EPSU Executive Committee in the newsletter.
Unions across Europe continue with protests. In the Ukraine the unions organised demonstrations and pickets of the parliament against labour law changes that undermine workers’ rights. Yesterday (9 December) Italian workers were on strike to demand action on jobs and pay increase after years of pay freezes while French unions in the EDF energy company are standing up for public services as the government attempts to dismantle the company. One of our UK affiliates, PCS, managed to collect more than 100.000 signatures demanding that the UK government to start negotiations on a pay increase. We express our solidarity with all the actions for better pay and conditions, for more staff and quality public services.